Turkey’s food fight gets serious as Ankara prepares to dish out hefty fines - Bloomberg

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is backing up threats with deeds as it takes on what it calls price-gougers amid runaway food inflation, Bloomberg wrote.

Following raids of wholesale food markets on Feb. 6 which revealed“exorbitant” price increases of up to 800 percent for certain items,  Turkish officials are rolling up their sleeves to apply fines, it said.

Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan on Sunday underlined that monetary penalties are on the way as authorities look to do away with middlemen by purchasing vegetables directly from farmers and selling them at cut-rate prices in Turkey’s two biggest cities.

It is not clear whether price-gouging alone is at fault, Bloomberg said, particularly after the August depreciation of the lira, which raised the cost of food imports and transportation.

Furthermore, flash floods in Antalya  - home to a large number of greenhouses - may have also contributed to shortages.

The showdown against rampant inflation is a ''political no-brainer,'' Bloomberg stressed, ‘’because high food costs disproportionately hurt poorer sections of Turkey’s 82 million people that traditionally have supported the president’s party.’’

Erdoğan has even come out suggesting the government’s resolve on the matter  would be no different than when it battled the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group at war in Turkey for over 30 years.

Food inflation is at its highest since at least 2004 - at an annual 31 percent - and Ankara is resorting to top-down solutions, Bloomberg noted, underlining that the Trade Ministry is looking to penalize 88 companies with fines of over 2 million liras ($381,000). 

In Ankara and Istanbul, municipalities are set to open stalls with cheaper vegetables at dozens of locations on Monday. This as the price of eggplants, cucumbers and tomatoes jumped 81 percent, 53 percent and 39 percent, respectively, on a monthly basis, according to official data.

Ankara has vowed that inspections will continue across Turkey at full steam with  ‘’no respite to opportunists.’’